WASHINGTON - The Democratic Party's control of the U.S. Senate after the general election in November could lie in the fortunes of female candidates and the deep-pocketed donors, like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who are sending piles of cash their way.
So far this election cycle, donors have handed over $46 million to a collection of political committees and candidates linked to Emily's List, which backs female contenders who support abortion rights. The Emily's List network of committees has raised more than most other outside groups.
According to campaign finance documents filed Tuesday, one of the newest benefactors for Emily's List was Bloomberg, who wrote a $2 million check last month.
The billionaire former mayor's donation reflects just how tight the contest to control the Senate next year is shaping up to be — and why women could be a decisive force behind Democratic efforts to defend their Senate majority.
Republicans need to pick up six seats in the 100-seat Senate to grab control. If they do, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, would face the final two years of his presidency fighting an opposition-led Senate as well as a House of Representatives that is expected to remain in Republican hands.
In the election, incumbent Democratic senators Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire face heavy outside spending but have Emily's List backing. A third endangered Democrat, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, chose not to seek Emily's List aid.
At the same time, Democrats are hoping to get the open Senate seat in Georgia, with Michelle Nunn as the nominee. The Democratic candidate in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, also has posted strong fundraising numbers and has captured her party's interest. Both seats are currently in Republican hands.
"Democratic women have been at the forefront on every major issue and not only are Americans impressed, they are ready to send them reinforcements," Emily's List President Stephanie Schriock said.
Republican groups, such as the anti-abortion rights Susan B. Anthony List and its affiliates, have been building their fundraising and volunteer lists in recent years. But their impact is far outpaced.
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